Undercover boss

There is a television show using the above name that depicts the CEO of a company donning some disguise and working in a local branch. Imagine the CEO of Burger King or ACE Hardware going to a local branch in Baton Rouge Louisiana or Lufkin, Texas and seeing his company from close up. They take off their thousand dollar suits and don a company uniform. They leave their plush office with the view and live in a cheap hotel.

They turn their manicured hands to hard and dirty labor. It’s always interesting to see an individual who is, after all, a white collar person struggle to fry burgers, deal with the public, or clean toilets. Usually, the boss finds out how hard the job actually is for his employees and earns a renewed respect for the rank and file of his organization. The program always ends with the boss revealing his or her identity to the surprise (or sometimes chagrin) of his employees.

It makes me think of another undercover boss story, the one where Jesus the son of God left the glories of heaven and donned the rough garb of a human being (Philippians 2:5-8). There was no physical marker that identified him as divine; in fact, his physical appearance was indistinguishable from that of the Israelites around him (Isaiah 53:1,2). The writer of Hebrews rightly emphasizes the significance of this incarnation. It provided struggling humanity with a “faithful and sympathetic” high priest who understands our struggles (Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:14-16). Often someone from a privileged class has trouble understanding the plight of the masses; not so with Jesus Christ, who suffered, just as we have.

It also makes me think of the need for Christians to do what some have called incarnational ministry, a ministry where we live among the people we serve, facing their hardships and understanding their struggle. Make no mistake, this is the essence of mission work. The missionary simply cannot live behind the walls of a mansion and be fully effective with the struggling masses without.

The writer of Hebrews urges us to go outside the camp to the place where Jesus was: “Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he {Christ] endured” (Hebrews 13:13).

It’s messy out there. There’s dust and sin and heartbreak, and it’s where we who represent Christ, the ultimate undercover boss, should be.

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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One thought on “Undercover boss

  1. Great article! The essence of true leadership is a boss who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. Jesus fulfilled that, and more! Thank you for the timely reminder.

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